Abuse Victims Welcome Apology by Nuns

One in Four [Ireland]
Downloaded May 11, 2004

Representatives of people abused as children in institutions run by religious orders have reacted positively to a statement by the Sisters of Mercy yesterday. Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent reports in The Irish Times

Sisters Breege O'Neill, Mary Reynolds, and Mary Conway, of the congregation's leadership team, accepted "unreservedly" that many who had spent their childhood in their institutions had been "hurt and damaged while in our care".

They said that "we believe that you suffered physical and emotional trauma.

"We have in the past publicly apologised to you. We know that you heard our apology then as conditional and less than complete.

Ms Christine Buckley, whose experiences at Dublin's Goldenbridge orphanage, run by Mercy nuns, featured in RTE's 1996 programme Dear Daughter, said last night the Sisters of Mercy "should be congratulated" on the apology and for accepting they had caused suffering to former residents. "Most importantly, they have believed us," she said. The response at the Aislinn victims' centre in Dublin yesterday had been "phenomenal", "very, very positive," she said, while the reaction from people phoning her home had been "fantastic".

There was "a great sense of pride" that what former residents had been saying all along about what they had suffered in the institutions was being acknowledged.

One woman at the centre said "I don't drink, but I'm going to buy myself champagne today."

Another, Ms Mary Lawlor, said she had been telling her story since 1961 and, while she knew her counsellors believed her, "nothing compares to this day. It has to be the best day of my life".

However, still others at the centre, who were in institutions run by other congregations, were "quite upset".

Ms Buckley remarked it must have been "extremely hard" for the Mercy nuns to make such an apology and to accept blame. But she called on other congregations to "follow the same path so we can all put closure to this". For her, personally, the ultimate in her healing process would be to meet her abuser, so she could understand why. She felt it might also be good for the nun concerned. The One in Four group commended "the courage and vision" of the Mercy Sisters, "and the unambiguous nature" of their apology.

The Let Our Voices Emerge group, which has alleged false allegations on a major scale were being made against religious orders who ran the institutions, said yesterday "the Sisters have not admitted to any allegations of abuse today, nor would they have the right to do so".

The group expressed concern "that the Sisters we know who have been falsely accused would not be fully protected as part of this initiative."


On behalf of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy we, the Central Leadership Team, wish to say to all those who as children lived in our Orphanages/Industrial schools:

We accept unreservedly that many of you who spent your childhoods in Orphanages/Industrial schools run by our Congregation were hurt and damaged while in our care. We believe that you suffered physical and emotional trauma.

We have in the past publicly apologised to you. We know that you heard our apology then as conditional and less than complete. Now without reservation we apologise unconditionally to each one of you for the suffering we have caused.

We express our heartfelt sorrow and ask your forgiveness. We ask forgiveness for our failure to care for you and protect you in the past and for our failure to hear you in the present.

We are distressed by our failures. We have been earnestly searching to find a way to bring about healing. We need your help to do this.

We recognise that this statement may be considered too little too late. We make it in the hope that it will be a further step in the long process of healing the pain that we as a Congregation have caused.

Finally we failed those sisters in our Congregation whom we put in the situation of caring for you without adequate supports or resources. For that too we apologise and take responsibility.

We can be contacted in any of the following ways:

Free phone number 1800 321 123 from May 9th to June 9th - Mon/Tues/Wed from 5-8 p.m.

Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, 13/14 Moyle Park, Clondalkin, Dublin 22.


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